Senior leadership will be a key ingredient this year as the Fox Chapel softball team will go for its fourth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth.
The Foxes have nine seniors on the roster for third-year coach Lisa Hess.
“Our expectations are very high,” Hess said. “We have two returning senior pitchers — Krystyna Burdelski and Emma Humes. Our whole lineup is returning except for our outfield.”
Burdelski and Humes are expected to alternate between pitcher and shortstop.
The team was 5-5 in Section 2-6A play last season, a game behind third-place Norwin. The Foxes lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to North Allegheny in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We have a lot of great seniors and a lot of great potential this year,” Humes said. “We have a lot of people ready to step up and take a leading role.”
Humes depends on ball movement, and Burdelski likes to throw inside and out with a combination of speed and a drop curve.
“I think we can go far this year if we all stick together,” Burdelski said. “It took me about a year and a half to learn a drop curve.”
Returning to the fold this season is first baseman Brianna O’Malley, who led the team last year with a .319 batting average and an on-base percentage of .467.
A four-year starter, third baseman Tawnya Holben batted .300 last season and is looking for improved power numbers in 2018. She is equally optimistic about Fox Chapel’s chances this season.
Senior Grace Katz will return to second base and senior Eva Speacht will be behind the plate. She will be backed up by fellow senior Emily Kelly, who also will contribute.
Sophomore Claire Katz is slated to get both infield and outfield playing time.
Hess said the outfield is wide-open for starting positions.
In contention are Claire Katz, seniors Lea Prato and Caitlin Hudic, sophomore Jessica Klein and freshman Neena Pietropaolo.
Assistant Julie DiLeonardo will be the pitching coach and Chris Olbrich will be the junior varsity and batting coach.
Fox Chapel has to navigate one of the WPIAL’s toughest sections. Two-time defending state champion Hempfield lost some key players but is expected to reload, along with Latrobe.
Norwin also will have another quality team with Penn Hills and Allderdice rounding out the section.
“Our plan is to take one game at a time and make a run toward the playoffs,” Hess said. “We are confident, especially returning such a talented group of players.”
Like the baseball team, Fox Chapel softball has an artificial turf infield and can play more games and have outside practices, even working out on unseasonably warm days in February.
The Foxes will open the regular season March 23 at Plum and will begin the section grind April 3 on the road against Penn Hills at the Milltown Complex.